If your dog has been diagnosed with pancreatitis, your vet probably spoke to you about the importance of food. Some vets will recommend a prescription or commercial diet that is formulated for dogs recovering from pancreatitis. Others may recommend simple home-cooked food for the next couple of weeks.
Got sweet potato in the fridge? Good news! Sweet potato is a wholesome, nutritious, and tasty option for dogs recovering from pancreatitis. This article will explore the signs and causes of pancreatitis, as well as why sweet potato is a good option and what foods you should avoid feeding your dog if they’ve had pancreatitis.
What is Pancreatitis in Dogs?
Pancreatitis refers to inflammation of the pancreas—an organ in your dog’s abdomen. After your dog eats a meal, the pancreas makes juices or “enzymes” to break down fats, sugars, and starches. This is very similar to how things work in the human body.
When dogs suffer an episode of pancreatitis, the pancreas becomes inflamed and angry. As a result of this inflammation, the digestive enzymes we mentioned leak out from the pancreas, causing damage to other organs in the abdomen.
Pancreatitis can be either “acute” or “chronic”. Acute pancreatitis comes on suddenly. Chronic pancreatitis tends to come on more slowly and “wax and wane”. Both forms of the disease are variable in their severity—in some dogs it is mild, and in other dogs it is life-threatening.
What are the Causes of Pancreatitis in Dogs?
The bottom line is, we don’t really know what causes pancreatitis in most cases. However, what we do know are “risk factors” for the disease. These are things that studies suggest predispose dogs to develop pancreatitis.
Signs of Pancreatitis in Dogs
The most common signs of pancreatitis include:
It’s important to note that signs of pancreatitis in dogs are highly variable. Some dogs may experience one or two of the above symptoms, and other dogs may experience all of them. Signs also range in their severity. For example, some dogs may vomit once, and other dogs vomit constantly.
Additionally, these signs are not only seen with pancreatitis. In fact, they can be seen with a number of other diseases, so blood tests, X-rays, and sometimes ultrasounds at the vet clinic are very important tools used to reach a diagnosis.
How to Care for a Dog with Pancreatitis
Your dog will need a visit to the vet hospital, where they’ll likely stay for a few days. This is because your dog will likely require intravenous fluids, pain relief, anti-nausea medications, and small frequent meals. Their hydration levels, comfort, and vitals will require close monitoring.
The prognosis for dogs with pancreatitis is variable. While most dogs survive, earlier diagnosis and treatment definitely result in better outcomes. Once your dog is ready to go home, they’ll need small, frequent meals of bland food. The food should be low in fat and highly digestible. There are two main options here:
1. Commercial diet
These are specially formulated dog foods that are low in fat, easily digestible, and backed by research. We’ve included our two favorites below:
2. Home-cooked diet
This should comprise three ingredients:
Whichever way you decide to go, frequent feeding is better. If you can offer your dog a small amount of food four or five times a day, this is better than one big meal, as the pancreas doesn’t have to work as hard to digest the food.
Why Is Sweet Potato Good for Dogs with Pancreatitis?
Sweet potato is a good source of carbohydrates and is very low in fat. On average, sweet potato only contains 1% fat! Most dogs will enjoy sweet potato, and it is usually available at supermarkets all year round.
Sweet potato is also a good source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and potassium. What does all of this mean? It means sweet potato is a good vegetable option to add to your dog’s diet if he or she is recovering from pancreatitis!
How Should I Prepare the Sweet Potato?
As with everything, moderation is key. Sweet potato should be fed with other vegetables, a good source of cooked lean protein, and carbohydrates. Sweet potato alone is not a balanced diet for dogs.
In 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an investigation that potentially linked grain-free diets with heart disease (specifically, dilated cardiomyopathy) in dogs. Why does this matter? Well, lots of grain-free diets contain legumes, pulses, and vegetables—and occasionally sweet potato.
The research isn’t particularly strong, and it certainly doesn’t incriminate sweet potato alone. Additionally, the risk is likely associated with the long-term feeding of these diets, as opposed to the few weeks of feeding required after a bout of pancreatitis. So, while the risk is extremely low, we recommend chatting with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about this.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Other Vegetables Are Suitable?
If you can’t find sweet potato, or if your dog doesn’t like the taste, there are plenty of other options. Peas, broccoli, carrots, and pumpkin are all suitable for dogs recovering from pancreatitis. Just avoid onions, garlic, and chives, which are toxic.
What Foods Aggravate Pancreatitis?
Fatty foods are the main culprit: oils, pork, beef, salami, gravy, and table scraps are all examples of what you should be avoiding.
Can Cats Get Pancreatitis?
Yes! However, cats show signs of pancreatitis differently from dogs, and the causes are a little harder to pinpoint. The disease is not contagious, so one dog or cat suffering from pancreatitis cannot transmit it to another.
If your dog is recovering from pancreatitis, always discuss both short-term and long-term nutrition plans with your veterinarian. With a good diet and close attention, most dogs can be well-managed long-term, with few (if any) flare-ups. Sweet potato is a great low-fat vegetable option for dogs recovering from pancreatitis, though it must be part of a balanced diet.
Featured Image Credit: Forever J, Shutterstock